Ah, Thanksgiving. We’ve always had a decent outreach effort around Thanksgiving, with HomeFront meals and turkeys and food going this way and that. But five or six years ago, I remember being at the firehouse and Michelle Dudas, God rest her soul, asked if I thought that Consolidated and Christ Church could get together and cook meals for those who might need them in Bordentown. Sure, why not? We roped in the Kiwanis, others hopped on board, and we sat down to see if we could pull off cooking and delivering 50 to 75 meals on the day before Thanksgiving. Thanks to so many of all of you who cooked and delivered, we managed that, and we were satisfied with our efforts. Maybe we could do 100 meals next year?
Fast forward to this year, and with the help of the Rotary and the Elks and Whole Hog Cafe and so many more friends of the parish, we prepared and delivered 490 meals, all fresh food, all made with love. It takes a lot of people to manage that, and we wore out a lot of people in the effort. I know more than a couple people who spent most of Thanksgiving and Black Friday on couches, pretending not to nap.
But then all of sudden, as is often the case, God tells us to wake up! Saint Paul told us this morning that it is “time now for you to wake from sleep!” For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.
And as much as I hear what Paul is saying, I just want to reach over and smack…the snooze button on my phone.
But there is too much value in being awake – spiritually awake, that is. Paul is telling us that all too often, even the best of us live most of the time in a state of spiritual slumber. We could even be on a good track: avoiding egregious sin, going to church, preparing meals, being kind to our neighbors, all of which keep us in the true Faith; but Paul says we’re missing something.
Anybody remember Harold Camping? Harold Camping was a rich guy who was convinced that he knew when Jesus was going to come back and the world would end. Camping founded the Family Radio Network and was the station’s main attraction, somehow. He talked like his own mouth was trying to stop him from talking and his reasons for thinking the world would end on May 21, 2011 – wait, no, October 21, 2011 – strained reason, but even I listened to him on occasion. Camping missed, among other things, one big sentence uttered by Jesus: “for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” But I will give him credit for his attempts at keeping people ready for the Lord, for keeping people spiritually awake.
So in the real world, the one outside of numerological predictions of the end times, what does staying spiritually awake look like?
Lucky for us, today is the first day of Advent, which is, in and of itself, a great teacher of spiritual wakedness. Advent is a time, much like Lent, in which we are preparing ourselves for something, in this case, Christmas. In Advent, we are literally counting down the days for our Lord to come to us – sound familiar? There are practical concerns: trees and bulletins and wreaths and candles and roast beasts and presents and flowers and choir anthems. And there are spiritual concerns: what becomes of the needy, the forgotten, those who grieve? What do I need to apologize for, the things said or done or unsaid or undone? What of my own relationship with God? Have I listened to Him in prayer, have I watched for Him to come to me in friend and stranger?
In short, in both the spiritual and the practical, the question becomes, Am I living as if I am expecting Jesus to arrive at any minute? Am I living as if I am aware that Jesus is already here and intimately present with us in His Holy Spirit? If it is time for us to wake from sleep, what would it look like if we did?